Archive - Nov 2010

November 29th

Babe Ruth

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was at the World Series game in 1932 when Babe Ruth allegedly called his shot by pointing towards the flagpole in center field before hitting a 440-foot drive right where he pointed. 

I suspect the story is true. But what people don't realize is the nature of the game at the time. People talk today about "respecting the game," which means don't do any showboating on the field. However, Ruth built the game up into a national passion by showboating all of the time. You can see it in some of the old tapes. When he was called out on a third strike, he would go into an exaggerated pout. When he hit a home run, he enjoyed it as much as Reggie Jackson ever did. 

Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and other legends of the time realized baseball was a game meant to entertain the masses, and they didn't hesitate to bring their showmanship onto the field. 

Paige often pitched the ninth inning with all of his fielders but for the catcher sitting in a circle behind the pitcher's mound. 

Ted Williams sometime spent an entire inning chatting (that would be bickering, knowing what I know of Willians) with fans down the left-field line at Fenway. Once he got mad, threw his glove on the ground and sat down on the field facing the wall for an entire inning. His petulant personality was often on display on the field, and often caused his own team to suffer.  

Today, that behavior would get you benched. Manny Ramirez comes the closest of any player I know to behaving as badly as Ruth and Williams did. Ramirez could offer to play for the Twins for free and they would tell him to take a hike, even though he is a great hitter. You just can't have that sort of attitude on a team. 

So, the Babe Ruth "called shot" legend is likely true. However, it is also likely that Ruth gestured, threatened, pranced, pouted and carried on like a clown almost all the time. His bigger-than-life personality combined with his bigger-than-life home runs built baseball into the national pastime, but he would be regarded as a troublemaker today.

November 28th


After I wrote this week's column, friend Mark in New Jersey sent this article from the New York Times on how the urgency and difficulty of treating Alzheimer's spurred scientists to share data they would normally hold close to their chest for proprietary reasons. It seems like a small bureaucratic matter, but it is a big deal.

November 27th

Amish articles

The Detroit Lakes Tribune has published an excellent three part series on the Amish in Becker County. (See part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

The articles answer many of the questions about the Amish I have had, and they dispel some of the myths. 

I love the line where the elder says that the Amish don't claim that those who don't believe their way go to hell and conversely, they aren't particularly sure that the Amish are going to heaven! 

What delightful humility. 

Everybody around here should read these articles if for no reason than to get better acquainted with our new neighbors. 

November 26th

Dad blowing snow


November 25th

Winter, cont.

After losing one vehicle to frozen wheels (friend Bruce offered the obvious cure: Pour hot water on them. It worked.) and retrieving the Ranger from retirement, I was thrilled to be in a four-wheel drive again and took to tearing around the yard with abandon. 

As I drove up to the yard yesterday, Lance's car and my car with the frozen wheels formed sort of an obstacle course. But with four-wheel-drive, hey! I can go anywhere. 

So, I wove around the two cars, at least until WHAM! the Ranger hit an oak stump hidden by the snow. It was one of the oak killed by the house construction. Uncle Rolly, a woodsman by trade, kindly and skillfully cut the tree down leaving almost no stump. But there was enough stump left to stop the Ranger. It was hung up there and I was down to no vehicles. 

This morning, I thawed the Taurus wheels with hot water. While I was gone getting Aunt Olla, Dad came out with the Cat to lift the Ranger gently off the stump. It looks like there is no damage to the pickup. The stump doesn't know the difference. But I can't imagine the pickup staying in alignment after hitting a stump with the steering mechanism. 


A quiet Thanksgiving in Lake Wobegon. I got up early this beautiful morning to put the turkey in an oven bag and put it in the oven. Then I slowly cleaned and carried on until it was time to go get Aunt Olla from the Hilton. Lance and Mom took over the cooking.

When I got to the Hilton, Olla was struggling to get ready and the staff was pretty busy so her usual habit of being at the ready was broken.

We got her boots on and got her out to the car and out to my place with no problem.

"It's this mackerel degeneration," she said by way of explanation. 

"Its good I have so much wrong with me," she added later, "that gives me lots of excuses."

Mom and Dad's presence drew out a different set of stories from Olla, including a few I hadn't heard. 

The first Thanksgiving they were in Twin Valley, which would be 1919, they were invited to the Larsons. Mrs. Larson was something other than Norwegian so she had a fancy, fancy meal with place cards. All went pretty well until one of the Larson girls said, "now it's your turn to have us over!" That mortified Mama, who knew full well she couldn't prepare such a feast in her tiny house with seven kids. 

Aunt Millie and Aunt Olla were picking strawberries in the patch one day. Millie had heard that if you wipe fresh strawberry juice across your face it would remove the freckles. She decided to try it. Then, she got tired and fell asleep. Olla was tired and sat in the weeds. Some neighbors came by, saw Millie with her red face and ran up to tell Mama that her daughter was very ill under the tree down by the strawberry patch. Probably scarlet fever. 

Olla was in fine form. She has determined to write all of her Christmas letters long-hand, none of these copied off brag sheets about where she went this year and all that. 

The snow started to fall about three 0'clock, so we got Olla right into the car in the garage and back to the Hilton. She insisted I call her when I got home so she didn't worry. Telling her that I had a cell phone and could get ahold of help at any time didn't help. "Well, call me when you get to this tree, then," she said, disgusted. 


November 24th


Alan Simpson, a good Republican if there ever was one, makes good sense, especially when he discusses the talk show hosts. 

The whacko contingent will dump him over the side of the ship real fast. 


Here is a great article on the notion of american exceptionalism which we heard about last election and continue to hear about today. This is the notion that our nation is inherentliy superior therefore we are entitled to do things, like torture, that are offensive when other less superior nations do them. 

No, you are only superior if you act out superior principles (such as the rule of law) on a daily basis. That is much different than saying we are special so we can do what we want.

November 23rd


Whoa. Did we get winter in a hurry. Lots of snow and then some good, solid cold. Not deep cold, but plenty cold.

When I am in Arizona, I relish every moment, but there are times when I sort of hanker for sitting in my warm house by the fire keeping warm. It's cozy, you know. 

Well, I am here in the house and plenty cozy and I'd still rather be in Arizona.

Was going to drive Lance up to work in Thief River Falls this evening (he works nights at Digi-Key) and both of the rear wheels were frozen in place on the Taurus. I discovered that only after wearing about 10,000 miles worth off my front tires. So I called Dad to bring the good old Ranger out from the nursery so we could use that. 

Once north of Fertile a bit, the roads were dry. But the road by the nursery is a bit miserable. It is stuck in a stage of construction where it is very narrow, for some reason, and meeting a car tonight, my wheel went off the shoulder. Glad I was in the Ranger as I had four wheel drive and pulled right back on the road. 

I have spent a couple of days learning about assisted living. It is sure interesting. We all hope to get something going soon. We are going to get the market study rolling here in about the next month so we know what is needed. Then it is to decide how to fulfill whatever need there is. 

I read the last market study, done in 2004. Very interesting. It forecast that the nursing home would be using 51 beds in 2010 and...sure enough, that's where the nursing home is at today. So, those folks know what they are doing. 

The same study forecast that we would need 15 assisted living units in 2010, so it will be interesting to see what we actually need. There are so many ways of addressing the needs. I am also hoping we can get some Alzheimer's-specific care in Fertile. Turns out that Alzheimer's care doesn't have to be a full blown Alzheimer's unit. In the early stages, Alzheimer's patients can live in their own apartments. 

Yesterday, I went in to see Aunt Olla at the Hilton. She is in fine spirits. She had loads of items spread out on her bed for me to go through and decide what was important, mostly junk mail that she takes way too seriously. Those direct mailings are designed to make old ladies think they have to send cash and most of them are scams. 

But there was also the vitamin issue. Olla's brain is too fried, she maintains, to order them herself. How can you order brain pills before you've gotten your brain pills? Impossible! 

So, I have an $184 order here that I am going to submit once I figure out how. 

The mood at the Hilton yesterday was rowdy. The panel of women up front were in good form. Thelma watches the nurses station to make sure they behave. Val just had some sight restored with surgery to her eyes, so she can make out basic outlines and it seems to have cheered her up quite a lot. Blanche had pink curlers in her hair, which is usually the case. Vi is talking more after her stroke. Sharon was eager to hear about her son, a classmate of mine whom I visited in the Cities on the way home from Arizona. It is a lively and fun bunch that guards the door at the Hilton. They are always eager to shoot the bull. 

I don't like to enjoy dementia too much, but sometimes the worlds you enter when visiting with dementia patients are truly novel. A woman bemoaned the utter and complete failure of the meal she attempted for a bunch of company just this morning. I tried to encourage her with platitudes: "Well, it will go better next time," I said. But she was pretty upset. "That doesn't do me a lot of good now!" she responded. 

She had also gone outside to collect some snow  but for crying out loud she looked everywhere and she just couldn't find any decent snow. It is so hard to find decent snow these days! 

I looked outside and saw way too much decent snow.

Just when I was going to ask what she was going to use the snow for, she asked herself. "And you know the worst of it," she said, "I don't even know what I was going to do with the snow!" 

We had a good laugh over that, but then she asked me earnestly, "What do you think I was going to do with the snow?" 

I honestly didn't have a clue. 

I think I have experienced a little of this sort of dementia when 1) having a high fever as a child and 2) coming out of anesthesia after various surgeries. What an awful feeling to be under the command of irrational imperatives like having to find some decent snow. And failing! 

That's when there should be some good drugs on hand. 

November 18th


The airport security nonsense has reached a new level.  Now, we're going to pat down and x-ray Grandpa and Grandma on their way to Arizona. Ridiculous. 

One of my disappointments with the Obama administration is their refusal to bring some sense to the airport security silliness. At the airport in Minneapolis on my way to Tucson, the TSA line took an hour. Many people missed planes. It wasn't the fault of the workers--they were going as fast as they could while trying to honor procedure. They were just understaffed. 

While I have been here, I have heard some hair-raising stories about another matter: Passport control. A woman coming here for medical school from Central America was subjected to six hours of grilling in a small room. They called her every name in the book, accused her of coming here just to get married so she could stay, on and on. They were waiting, it seemed, for one slip, one indication of anger, so they could deny her entry--which was in the power of the officers there. 

This is a woman who had all her papers in order and had been accepted into medical school. She would get no aid from this country at all. 

People who are coming to this country for legitimate reasons actually have training they go through to help them get through U.S. customs. They are told to expect to be called every name in the book. And they are not to respond in any way but calmly or they will be denied entry. 

A few years back, a music band from Iceland, of all places, was detained six hours in the Minneapolis by the passport control people. They were strip-searched and interrogated in small rooms. Their stories were compared Any slight inconsistency was the source of more brutal questioning. 

This is nuts. We have allowed our fear to interfere with rational thought (which would probably make it clear that six people with Icelandic passports carrying musical instruments weren't a threat) and our decency as a country. We should be a beacon of freedom to the world, and we should be welcoming to those who come here legitimately (99.9% of people in airports) who are coming here to visit, go to school, or whatever. This generic xenophobic fear must end. 

I suspect Obama doesn't want to look weak in any way. For that reason, he has maintained a lot of the policies of the previous administration, even the ridiculous and paranoid ones.